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Pathologists study the nature, cause, development and effects of disease. They provide and interpret laboratory information essential to medical diagnosis and patient care.

There are two main areas of pathology:

Anatomical: dealing with the gross and microscopic structural changes produced by disease in the tissues of the body and associated physiological abnormalities, one sub-speciality is neuropathology;

Clinical: dealing with the chemical and physiological variations of disease as seen in body fluids and tissues.

Some pathologists perform autopsies to determine the nature and extent of diseases, the cause of death and the effects of treatment. Others supervise and coordinate the performance and reporting of a wide range of diagnostic and screening tests and maintain a rigid system of quality control to ensure the accuracy of test results.

Many pathologists are involved in research concerning the nature and origins of disease and the possibilities for prevention and cure. Some pathologists teach medical students, nurses and other health science students.

Satisfying Aspects
- challenges of research and teaching
- satisfaction in finding the cause of death, especially in difficult cases
- working on research that may lead to medical or scientific advances
- variety of work
- the prestige associated with this profession

Demanding aspects
- the pressure of laboratory work that demands constant care and attention to detail
- working on projects for long periods of time without seeing results
- being unable to diagnose a problem
- the possibility of infection.

A pathologist should:
- be able to work well with others;
- have a desire to help people;
- work accurately;
- be responsible;
- be curious and imaginative;
- be able to communicate well in writing and speech;
- have an aptitude for science and mathematics;
- have manual dexterity and physical stamina.

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Note: Competition to enter medical studies is stiff and there are usually many applicants with good grades who tend to be given preference.

Degree: MBChB degree - UCT, UFS, UP, US, UL, UKZN, Wits.
- Theoretical training: 5 years.
- Student internship: 1 year.
- Practical work at a hospital: 1 year (also known as the house doctor year).

Postgraduate study for specialization as a pathologist:
MMed or FCP(SA): 4 years, e.g. UP, UFS, UCT, UKZN, Wits.

Before commencing post-graduate study for specialization as a pathologist the candidate must:
- be in possession of a MBChB degree for 2 years;
- be registered as a medical doctor with the Interim Medical and Dental Council (IMDC) of South Africa for 1 year.

On successful completion of the examination to qualify as specialist, the candidate must register with the IMDC as a pathologist.

- Hospitals, clinics and other medical institutions
- Educational institutions
- Government health and legal departments
- Research institutions
- Private practice

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300
Fax: (012) 328-5120